Located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Fordyce Bathhouse is a historic European-style hot springs bathhouse facility that functions as a visitor center and living history museum for Hot Springs National Park. The area that now encompasses the city of Hot Springs and the land of Hot Springs National Park is centered around a number of natural geothermal hot springs, produced by the rising of heated groundwater located inside the Earth’s crust. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.History

History
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Traditionally, the waters of these hot springs have been believed to contain healing and medicinal properties because of their high dissolved mineral content, leading to folklore among a number of world cultures that bathing in the heated waters will cure or relieve ailments such as rheumatism. The hot springs of the Arkansas area were historically used by indigenous American tribes as healing sites, a tradition that was continued by early European colonists of the area. By the early 1800s, crude bathhouse structures had begun to appear in the area, most in the shape of canvas and lumber tents pitched over individual springs. Fires and erosion plagued early bathhouse construction in the area, however, and runoff from Hot Springs Creek led to flooding and stagnant water pooling, prompting the 1884 channeling and paving of the creek to flow underneath a city road.

The road today is part of Hot Springs’ Central Avenue and Bathhouse Row, which comprise its main business district. Founded in 1807, Hot Springs developed into a thriving European-style spa town throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, anchored around eight bathhouse facilities constructed between 1892 and 1923. The bathhouses are part of federally-owned land, originally designated in 1832 as part of Hot Springs Reservation, which was converted into a 5,500-acre National Park in 1921.

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2.Permanent Attractions and Exhibits

Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
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Though the bathhouse movement fell out of popularity by the mid-20th century due to advancements in modern medicine, the eight Hot Springs bathhouses still stand today as examples of popular turn-of-the-century architecture movements, including Neoclassical, Spanish, and Italianate designs. In 1987, the Row was designated as a National Historic Landmark, ensuring the future preservation of the buildings. Of the original eight buildings, only four--the Buckstaff, Quapaw, Lamar, and Fordyce--are open to the public today. Traditional European bath services are provided at the Buckstaff and Quapaw, and the Lamar space has been converted into the Bathhouse Row Emporium, which serves as the National Park’s official gift shop.

Opened in March of 1915, the Fordyce Bathhouse is the largest and most expensive bathhouse on the Row. It was designed by Little Rock architectural firm Mann and Stern at a cost of over $212,000, utilizing Spanish and Italian design elements to create an overall Renaissance Revival aesthetic. The facility’s construction was spearheaded by Colonel Samuel W. Fordyce, a Civil War soldier and Hot Springs community planner who was an avid proponent of the medicinal properties of thermal springs.

Throughout the early 20th century, the three-story Fordyce facility became emblematic of the pinnacle of the bathhouse movement in America. During its height of operation, mens and womens bathing facilities were provided, including steam rooms, hydrotherapy rooms, and full bath halls, with practices centering on a holistic healing approach. The facility also included a gymnasium, bowling lanes, a billiard room, and a museum of Native American relics, along with an assortment of state rooms for meetings, conversation, and quiet study. A fountain on the bathhouse’s grounds also utilized heated water from the area’s 47 springs.

Though the Fordyce ceased its bathhouse service in June of 1962, the first facility on the Row to suspend its operations, it was fully restored by the National Park Service in 1989 for use as a visitor center for Hot Springs National Park. Today, it operates as a complete living history museum, open to all visitors of the National Park. Park maps and informational materials are provided at the center, along with a short orientation film highlighting the history of the park, town, and bathhouses.

Visitors may also embark on self-guided tours of the bathhouse’s three floors and basement, which contain a number of historical exhibits about the bathhouse’s operations and amenities and the history of spa practices in Europe and the United States. A floor plan pamphlet is provided, detailing the location and historical use of the facility’s rooms. In addition to fully restored architectural and decorative elements, many of the bathhouse’s original amenities are still stocked and on view, including vintage manicuring and grooming goods. Guided tours are also offered twice daily throughout the park’s regular operating year, with park docents elaborating on the building’s exhibits and history. Reservations for tours are not required for individuals, but large groups may book private tours through the park in advance.

101 Reserve Street, Hot Springs , AR 71901, Phone: 501-620-6715

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Fordyce Bathhouse in Hot Springs, AR



More Ideas in AR: Compton Gardens and Convention Center

Located in Bentonville, Arkansas, Compton Gardens and Convention Center is a 6.5-acre public park and special events venue owned and operated by the Peel Compton Foundation, serving as a community woodland garden oasis available for private event booking. Born on August 1, 1912 in Bentonville to Ida Wilmoth and David Compton, Neil Ernest Compton was a noted Arkansas physician, author, and environmentalist.

History

After receiving dual undergraduate degrees in zoology and biology from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and earning a doctorate in medicine from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, Compton worked with the Arkansas State Board of Health, holding a residency at Little Rock’s St. Vincent Infirmary as a doctor of obstetrics. During World War II, Compton worked with the United States Naval Reserve’s Medical Corps, which led to several decades of service in the Navy’s Ready Reserve. An avid hiker and naturalist, Compton became involved in the 1960s public debate regarding the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed plan to impede the Buffalo River with dams, which led to his founding of the Ozark Society to Save the Buffalo River in 1962. As a result of the Ozark Society’s campaigning, the dam project was scrapped and the Buffalo River was declared a National River, overseen by the National Park Service, by President Richard Nixon in 1972. In homage to his environmental lobbying, he was appointed as an honorary National Park Ranger in 1987, and the legacy of his conservation work continues today through the work of the Ozark Society’s chapters in Arkansas and Louisiana.

In the 1960s, Compton opened a native plant nursery, called Crystal Spring Gardens, on land he owned near the downtown Bentonville area and Crystal Spring creek. The land was sold to the Walton family in 1978 and incorporated into the grounds and gardens of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which retained some of the original features of Compton’s plant cultivation. In May 2005, Compton’s family home and personal garden at the site were converted into a conference center and special event venue, connected to the Crystal Bridges complex via a landscaped trail. Throughout the 2010s, the Crystal Bridges facility has worked to recover many of Compton’s rock planting beds on the land and return them to their original native plant cultivation usage.

Permanent Attractions and Exhibits

Today, Compton Gardens and Conference Center is owned and operated by the Peel Compton Foundation, which also owns the nearby Peel Mansion, the 1875 historic home of Colonel Samuel West Peel that is operated as a living history museum. Following Compton’s horticultural style, the 6.5-acre grounds have been developed as a native woodland garden area with paved pathways and landscaped flower sections, which functions as a public park facility for the citizens of Bentonville. A number of small exhibits inside the conference center and on the park’s grounds chronicle the life and career achievements of Compton and the lasting impacts of his environmental activism, also offering information about the native Ozark plants that are found in the garden. A bridge connects the garden facility to the Crystal Bridges Trail system, which provides access to more than 120 acres of native Ozark forest, springs, and streams.

Two rooms at the Conference Center are available for private rental for weddings, business conferences, and other special events. A Garden Room features floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the Gardens’ grounds and seats up to 75 people at banquet tables or 80 people with theater-style seating. An outdoor patio accessible off of the Garden Room may accommodate an additional 50 event attendees. A state-of-the-art Conference Room is equipped with a slide projector and seats 16 around a large conference table or 30 with theater-style seating. A small kitchen facility, lounge, and coffee bar are provided for event food preparation and attendee gathering.

Ongoing Programs and Events

In addition to private event rentals, several annual public events are held at the facility, including an annual Spring Native Tree and Plant Sale in April. Plants for sale include the Missouri primrose, Ozark witch hazel, southern magnolia, and seedlings for loblolly pine, bald cypress, and white ash trees. Other events include the Gardens on Tap beer tasting event and happy hour series and the annual Dr. Compton Celebration, an August festival that commemorates the life and work of Compton with family-friendly nature activities.

Event rental space is also offered by the nearby Peel Mansion and Heritage Gardens facility, which also offers regular guided tours of the Civil-War-era mansion for small groups and organizations. A museum store at the Mansion is housed inside a pre-Civil-War cabin on the grounds, offering handcrafted goods by local artisans. Several annual events are presented at the mansion by the Peel Compton Foundation, including a Christmas Gala and Open House in December.

312 N Main St, Bentonville, AR 72712, Phone: 479-254-3870

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